A Boy to a Man
The story of A & P written by John Updike is based in a small towns A & P grocery store. It is a narrative view of the stores customers through the eyes of a young man who lets his infatuations, stubbornness and immaturity outweigh life in a result of him quitting his job at the local A & P where he is a cashier. The young man understands that life is about decisions and once they made you carry them out even if the outcome is not what you would expect.
The story starts with Sammy, a cashier at the A & P, as a young man stuck in a plain old store located five miles from the beach thats customers were the same from day to day. It begins with three young girls walking through the doors of the A & P in attire less than appropriate for the grocery store. They were in nothing than their bathing suites and were not even wearing shoes. Sammy has his eye on one of the girls he names Queenie and in a judgmental state of mind turns her into the leader of the group. He begins to describe her in many different ways and pays great attention to the details of the girls shown when he states, There was this chunky one, with the two-piece-it was bright green and the seams on the bra were still sharp and her belly was still pretty pale so I guessed she just got it (the suit)-there was this one, with one of those chubby berry faces, the lips all bunched together under her nose, this one, and a tall one, with black hair that hadnt quite frizzed right, and one of those sunburns right across under the eye, and a chin that was too long(17). His thought process begins to mature as the story unravels in his mind. As he watches them he, realizes that the girls are actually different in many ways. They do not follow the same steps while shopping as the regulars did, they were in there own realm and he thinks about how awesome it would be to know that he does not have to follow policy and strive to do something bigger and better with his life. He describes the day being Thursday and how the store is empty and he has nothing better to do except stand learning and waiting, as if he was playing pinball to see which isle the girls would come out of next.
The girls quickly appeared again form the far isle where he describes it as the light bulb or discount records section of the store. He notices they have found what they came in for, and now they were headed towards the register. When the three girls arrived at the register following their leader Queenie, the one Sammy has had his eye on, and put a can of King Fish Fancy Herring Snacks (19) down on his lane. Sammy nervous with icy cold hands noticed a man, his manager Lengel, coming out of the office that he hides in all day to talk to the girls about their attire and the store policy on clothes. As Lengel approaches he states Girls this isnt the beach ( 19) Queenie replies We werent doing any shopping (19). This is the point of the story where Sammy is showing the most change. He realizes after hearing the voice of Queenie that she is nothing more than a normal young lady. It brings him back to the reality of life. This realization gives him the desire for this young lady to notice him, and will need to quickly create an opportunity to gain her attention. He decides the way to do that is to quit his job using the excuse that he does not agree with the way his manage Lengel has treated the girls, he stands up for them and out of selfishness and immaturity he quits his job. He hopes that the girls will notice what he has done, but instead finds they did not hear him because of their tremendous hurry to get of the store as anyone would be who had been embarrassed by a manager. This is the point of the story were Sammy becomes a man in the eyes of John Updike. Lengel tries to explain to Sammy that he does not need to quit he states Sammy, you do not want to do this to your mother and father (20) and Youll feel this for the rest of your life (20). Lengel is trying to get Sammy to stop and think how his actions are going to affect the people who love him. But Sammys stubbornness does not allow him to think rationally, he takes extra steps in the relinquishing of his apron. He folds it very neatly and lays it down, and putting his bow tie, that belongs to the store, on top of the apron. This is the symbol of becoming a man, the fact that when an adolescent begins this part of their life it will have an effect on parents. He states that it being summer has made the transition easier (20). He did not have to fumble around collecting his coat he could just leave. This is when he reaches a state of maturity by realizing how hard life was going to be and he embraced it with an upset stomach, but as a new man in the path he has chosen.
The characteristics of Sammy in the story A & P are that of a young man making the journey into man hood. In the beginning of the story he is somewhat immature in the ways he views life. He is a daydreamer, which is shown numerous times in his talk of the three young girls. He is selfish when he quits his job with no regard to how it will affect his parents who may have to support him now or Lengel who has had to take over his job as cashier. Sammy show a sympathetic side by getting upset when Queenie becomes embarrassed, he also shows devotion by sticking to his decisions even after he realizes they were not wrong. By the end of this story Sammy shows how his characteristics have changed from that of a young man with no worries to that of a man by realizing how hard life would be on him and everyone who loves him.
Updike, John. A & P Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 11th ed. Longman 2010